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New game day: Monday

Players to divulge latest stadium deal, which includes maximum price

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2010 (2416 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The latest round of guesswork about Winnipeg's beleaguered stadium project could end next week, as a tentative deal has been reached to complete a new Canadian Football League facility.

City councillors have been invited to a closed-door, noon-hour seminar on Monday to hear details of a plan that calls for a $190-million, 33,000-seat stadium to be completed at the University of Manitoba with all the amenities promised back in March.

Later that afternoon, those details will be made public at Canad Inns Stadium, according to sources familiar with the deal. This will be the third formal stadium deal to be announced since April 2009 -- and the possible end of a process than began in November 2004, when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers first floated the idea of building a new home.

Sources say the province would pay for most of the stadium construction costs upfront and also provide a grant of no less than $15 million.

The City of Winnipeg, which previously wasn't going to contribute any capital funds toward the stadium, would provide $7 million, using proceeds from the sale of the existing stadium site at Polo Park.

The province would recoup at least $75 million of this loan from city and provincial property taxes that would emanate from new commercial and residential development on the Canad Inns Stadium site, which currently generates no tax revenue for either level of government.

Creswin Properties would exit the deal and the Winnipeg Football Club would become the project manager. The club would also be required to pay back the province no less than $70 million and quite likely more, a prospect that would leave the team in debt for decades.

One of the motivations to build a new stadium was to allow the 80-year-old CFL franchise to remain solvent. The club required a government bailout as recently as 10 years ago after it racked up $5.5 million in debt.

New revenue streams at a modern stadium will allow the club to pay back the province, Bomber board chairman Bill Watchorn said Thursday. Those revenue sources include naming rights, more luxury boxes, better concessions, special events, higher facility fees and entertainment taxes.

In anticipation of Monday's announcement, Premier Greg Selinger, Mayor Sam Katz, the Winnipeg Football Club and Creswin all declined to comment Friday.

It's not clear how Creswin will be compensated for engineering, design and other work conducted at the stadium site so far.

Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen, however, expressed concern there appears to be "no private involvement or private risk" in the deal.

"It just shows that the risk and the cost is being borne almost entirely by provincial taxpayers," McFadyen said Friday, adding he feels "some trepidation in reacting to the latest speculation on what the deal is going to entail."

He said he wishes more due diligence was done before the April stadium announcement "so that we didn't have to subject the entire community to the last eight-and-a-half months of drama."

The stadium deal announced in 2009 called for Creswin to land enough tenants at a proposed Polo Park mall to get access to a loan to build a $115-million stadium. An amended plan announced this spring called for the province to pay for construction upfront, but that deal fell apart when the cost of the project ballooned.

The current deal is said to meet a city demand for a guaranteed maximum price and an assurance the province would assume responsibility if the Winnipeg Football Club can't repay its stadium-building loan.

One component of the project is not changing: The city, province and Ottawa are still committed to spending a combined $22.5 million to build a new recreation and fitness facility at the U of M and renovate components of University Stadium.

City council is expected to vote on its end of the deal on Dec. 15.

McFadyen complained MLAs won't debate the plan because the provincial legislature has adjourned until the spring.

-- With files from Larry Kusch



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